Many Foursquare members are aware that my late wife, Sally, and I furthered Foursquare’s work in the Philippines from 1958-1972. Fewer know about the divine calls and miracles that preceded our arrival there.
They began with Sally’s call to missions in childhood. Her mother died when Sally was just 9 and the second oldest of six children. She sank into a deep, despairing grief, begging the Lord daily to take her to heaven to join her mother.
On her 10th birthday, as she wept and prayed again, God spoke to her in a vision. Sally saw Asian faces with black hair and outstretched hands moving like waves of grain. “You go and tell them about Me,” the Lord said, “and then I will take you to be with your mother.” Sally knew she had been called to be a missionary, although many years would pass before that happened.
Meanwhile, I grew up in Emporia, Kan., and planned to be a farmer. I loved working the fields. I had never seen a missionary until one Wednesday evening in my senior year of high school. A lady missionary to the Congo, who had been sent by our local Baptist church, spoke. Although a nurse there for 10 years, she could only serve five more, commenting, “I need someone to take my place.”
Stirred, I got up, walked to the front, and asked her, “What do I have to do to be a missionary?”
“Go enroll at Ottawa University,” she replied, referring to a private Christian school about 55 miles away. So that’s what I did.
During Christmas break, 25 students chartered a bus to attend the first Urbana USA Conference at the University of Illinois. More than 4,500 students attended. On the final night, a young evangelist named Billy Graham spoke.
“How many of you will prepare yourselves to take the gospel to the ends of the earth?” he concluded. Everyone leaped to their feet and shouted: “We will go! We will go!” The students included Jim Elliot, martyred eight years later in Ecuador. His story would be shared in a book by his widow, Elisabeth, and in the film, End of the Spear.
The next fall, I left Kansas for California to attend LIFE Bible College (now Life Pacific University). There, Sally and I were drawn together by our call to missions.
I grew up in Emporia, Kan., and planned to be a farmer. I loved working the fields. I had never seen a missionary until one Wednesday evening in my senior year of high school.
Later, while pastoring in Pittsburg, Kan., we heard about the need for missionaries in the Philippines, a work established by Everett and Ruth Denison in 1949. It seemed this was where God was calling us. But when Sally heard of the terrible skin rashes the Denisons’ children suffered, she was hesitant to proceed with our missionary application. Our little preschoolers, Mike and Robin, also had skin rashes.
One day, in prayer, the Lord gave her a vision. Mike and Robin were standing in a rice field, with ripe grains waving in the wind. Suddenly a ring of fire approached them, but as it drew closer, a huge hand swooped them up to safety. The Lord spoke to Sally, telling her that He would take care of her children. Breaking into tears, she agreed to go. Then, to my delight, she came in and signed the application. When we got to the Philippines, our children’s rashes disappeared.
However, before we could go, we needed another miracle. Our newly established congregation had decided to buy a house near the church for a parsonage, but it needed upgrading. One day, while helping move a heavy bathtub, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back. Soon after, we drove to Tulsa, Okla., to visit relatives—and talk to two doctors about my painful injury.
After X-rays, one said: “We need to fuse your lower back, and you will lose strength in your right leg. If you stay, we can operate.”
“I can’t stay,” I replied. “We plan to go to the Philippines in eight to 10 months.”
“Then you will be coming back to us in an ambulance,” he stated.
The trip home proved extremely painful. After preaching on Sunday, I had such bad leg pain I had to ask an elder to help me to our car.
The next morning, I took the treasurer by the bank to deposit the tithe and then to his house. When I got home, I opened the car door and fell down in the street before crawling to the front door and into the living room. Then I collapsed.
Sally and I wept and prayed together often as I lay there for four days. During that time, my brother-in-law, Don Pickerill, came through and prayed for me. On the fourth day, I heard a pop like a handclapping. Slowly backing up onto my knees, I stood and walked into the kitchen.
“Sally, we’re going to the Philippines!” I declared. And so, we did.
Read more here. Don McGregor shares insights for today’s missionaries.
Don and Sally McGregor served in the Philippines from 1958-1972, with Don ultimately becoming Philippine field director, pastoring and leading the Bible college. He served as director of Foursquare Missions International from 1993-1995.